The Eighth Annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon Begins!

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Kidnapped. Waylaid, imprisoned, bound, and tortured by gibbering, frothing beasts. I was kept against my will for no stated crime or offense but who can expect reason from the cackling monstrosities who seized me in the deep, dark night? It could have been worse… couldn’t it? That would be difficult to imagine. I begged, sobbing my pleas to spare my life, free me and not leave my projects unattended. “My children,” I cried. “My family, my life, my… my movie blog…” The monsters cared not. They brayed their evil laughter, bared their sharp teeth in my face, and tightened the screws.

But I escaped. The bread crumbs I left behind were found, as I knew they would be. My saviors arrived after what I learned was months later. They burst through walls of dirt, rock, and bone to find me and we fought our way out. The taste of freedom invigorated me and I fought alongside my rescuers with renewed energy, relishing the pain of my captors as they fell.

Arriving home I found the rest of my poor creatures ecstatic upon my return. Overjoyed as they were, they still wailed over my suffering and mourned the abrupt, violent interruption of the Seventh Halloween Horror Movie Marathon. “Three movies only,” they moaned. “Yes, I know,” I whispered. “But I watched more…”

They pointed at the screen. “Three! Three only!” They gnashed their teeth and hissed. Though they knew it was beyond my control they seemed to hold on to a seed of resentment I knew must be prevented from blossoming. My brood must not be angered.

“I know,” I said, praying they would forgive me. “There will be more. I promise.”

My dear readers must have suffered as well. That time cannot be reclaimed. The Seventh Annual Halloween Movie Marathon was cut short and my online devotees were left wanting. Please set aside your curses and refrain from casting your nefarious spells. I have returned and I vow to set things right, to realign and feed my sweet, horrible followers.

Seriously though, last year my life got in the way of being able to keep up with the blog, along with doubts about the quality of the reviews I was writing. Maintaining things became a source of anxiety and frustration so it became easier to let it slide. But this year I resolve to push myself and keep this year’s blog filled with the horror movie reviews you’ve come to expect. I’m determined to see this to completion. I look forward to all the great, not so great, and terrible horror movies I’ll be writing about this Halloween season!

And now… on with not just one, but TWO reviews to get this year kicked off!

Ghostwatch

Ghostwatch (1992) Directed by Lesley Manning. Starring Michael Parkinson, Sarah Green, Mike Smith, Gillian Bevan, Craig Charles, Keith Ferrari.

On Halloween of 1992 the BBC aired Ghostwatch, an investigation of a haunted house in Northolt, London. Hosted by BBC legend Michael Parkinson and featuring regular network correspondents Sarah Green, Mike Smith, and Craig Charles, the special focused on a mother and her two children who were the victims of a poltergeist. The spirit, whom they nicknamed “Pipes”, caused the usual banging on the walls, flinging about of household items, and tormenting of the two young girls as well as leaving scratches all over the body of the eldest daughter, Suzanne. Our brave reporters are there to get to the bottom of the story with Sarah taking on the brave task of spending the night in the home to report live to host Parkinson at the BBC studio on the events she witnesses.

While taking on the format of a true documentary investigation, Ghostwatch was a cleverly crafted work of fiction. It aired with little indication that what transpired was scripted and filmed ahead of time. A call-in phone number was provided for callers to tell their own ghost stories, but it connected viewers to a recording informing them of the true nature of the show. Unfortunately the number of calls received tied up the phone lines so that few who dialed in were able to hear the recording and continued to believe that they were witnessing live evidence of an honest to goodness poltergeist haunting.

Apparently the BBC audience legitimately freaked the hell out because of this show. Viewers were so traumatized that many of them may have suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. One already impressionable young man is thought to have committed suicide as a direct result of his viewing of Ghostwatch. Hosts appeared on children’s shows the next morning to let people know they were doing fine and the entire thing was all pretend. The show was banned from airing in full on the BBC afterward and had never been legally available in the U.S., either on television or home video, until the streaming horror channel Shudder put it in their catalog this year.

The controversy surrounding Ghostwatch is interesting enough, but does it still hold up well enough as a horror film on its own or is it just a historical curiosity? It’s hard to say. There have been so many films like it since then that it’s nearly impossible not to view it through the lens of what has come afterward.

It’s certainly well crafted enough that it fooled thousands of unsuspecting British viewers at the time, though they didn’t have the benefit of The Blair Witch Project or any number of mediocre Paranormal Activity movies to clue them in on what was going on. There was little reason to believe that it was anything other than what it was pretending to be. I do wonder how the skeptic I am now would have reacted had I seen it within the original context. While watching it my mind spent a good part of the time trying to put myself in the shoes of the original audience and looking for points in the show they might have started losing their minds.

Ghostwatch is not outright scary but there are enough creepy moments to hold interest. Pipes makes brief, split second appearances, some of which are unnerving and others that went unnoticed by me. He’s so well hidden that people have been reporting new sightings of the ghost in the film as recently as last year. I certainly didn’t find him anywhere new.

When you’re trying to fool your audience this way it seems like the acting should be convincing enough that the audience doesn’t detect any glaring unnaturalness and the cast of Ghostwatch manages to pull it off. The hosts are more or less in their element so it’s no surprise that they come across naturally. The mother of the girls was probably the weakest but any awkwardness on her part could be chalked up to nervousness with being in front of the camera.

Ghostwatch is worth a viewing at the least as an important historical entry into the early versions of faux-documentary/found footage horror films, if you have any interest in such movies. Frankly, there’s hardly any other way to view it, at least for anybody familiar enough with the genre. Have a look and keep an eye out for the elusive Pipes!

Coherence_2013_theatrical_poster

Coherence (2013) Directed by James Ward Byrkit. Starring Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Lorene Scarafia, Hugo Armstrong, Elizabeth Gracen, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher.

A group of eight moderately annoying, upper middle class friends get together for a dinner party on the night that a comet is passing overhead. Emily (Emily Baldoni) is convinced that the comet will doom them all to some kind of terrible, metaphysical danger. Most of her friends think she’s nuts, which in real life would be the right reaction. Even Beth (Elizabeth Gracen), who had just been fretting over some “door to nowhere” feng-shui nonsense, finds this notion too wacky for her own gullible belief system. But little do they know what kind of clever, low budget, Twilight Zone inspired science fiction film they’ve ended up in, at least not until the lights go out in town and two of the guests traipse out to investigate the single house down the street that has its lights on.

Coherence is one of those low budget indie science fiction films with enough twists and turns that going too deep into its plot would spoil a lot of the fun. It barely fits the mold of a horror film. There are some tense moments and a couple of jump scares, but overall this is more of a science fiction thriller. It’s still a fantastic film and well worth any horror fan’s time.

It’s shot almost entirely in one location, the director’s home, using a handheld, intimate, almost documentary style. If that kind of unsteady camerawork bothers you, stick with it anyway. Not only will you likely stop noticing it as the story unfolds, but the style enhances the importance of the relationship between the characters that is a vital part of the plot. A lot of the clues with what’s going on in Coherence are revealed through the personalities and interactions of this close group of friends.

Coherence is a layered, puzzle-like film that you’ll want to re-watch soon after finishing it. I spent most of the film riveted and exclaiming out loud at each reveal. I could name a couple of the twisty films that Coherence is similar to, but that alone would give the away the intricate surprises in store for you. I may have already said too much! Never mind all that then and give it a watch.

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